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Research : Livelihoods, Forests and Power Relations in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP)

Research theme coordinators: Abid Suleri, Urs Geiser

Research objective
Research activities
The historical context of forestry

Overview on forests and forestry
Case studies on Joint Forest Management
The role of forests in local people's livelihoods
Case study on decentralization and participation in the forestry sector
The impact of forest-related international norms in Pakistan
Timber trade

dsa Publications  

Research objective

Research objective is to test the dominant hypothesis that decentralisation, devolution of power, and increased people's participation increases on the one hand the effectiveness of natural resource management, and on the other hand helps local people to achieve livelihood security.

Many development projects, but also state agencies and civil society organisations in Pakistan are advocating (in principle) the strengthening of people's participation in livelihood-related issues. The voice of the (poor) people is to be supported, and their concerns brought forward into the development agenda. Advocacy, the organisation of networks, joint forest management, farmers committees, village development committees, etc. are some of the resulting forms of translating this popular discourse into action.

This concern is crucial and essential to move towards socially, economically, and ecologically sustainable living conditions, and the involved researchers and activists need full support in these ventures. The conceptual categories underlying the popular discourse, and especially the actual practice of this endeavours, though, need critical reflection. Critically reflecting on the reality of participation is an essential pre-requisite for a constructive-critical support to the concerned.

Research activities

In order to analyse the processes and impacts of devolution of power and decentralisation in the field of forestry, it is necessary to understand its details at various levels, from the household to the provincial, national and even international scale. Thus, the NCCR Pakistan Research Group undertakes a series of studies:

The historical context of forestry

Today's situation regarding forest utilization in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) is strongly influenced by historical developments that go back to colonial times.  A first inititial study was done by Urs Geiser which showed the need to analyse historical evidence in more detail. Therefore, Dr. Sultan-i-Rome undertook an in-depth research on forestry in the Princely State of Swat and Kalam with a historical perspective on norms and practices. Key publications are:

Sultan-i-Rome. 2005. Forestry in the Princely State of Swat and Kalam (North-West Pakistan). A historical Perspective on Norms and Practices. NCCR IP6 Working Paper No. 6.

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Geiser U. 2005. Contested Forests in North-West Pakistan: The Bureaucracy between the ‚Ecological’, the ‚National’, and the Realities of a Nation’s Frontier. In: Cederloef G. and Sivaramakrishna K. (eds.). Ecological Nationalism, Permanent Black and University of Washington Press.

Overview on forests and forestry

A general overview on the present conditions of forests and forestry in KP has been generated by Abid Suleri and Niels Balzer using the "Pressure - State - Response" - framework developed by OECD. Key publications are:

Suleri A.Q. 2003. State of Forests in Pakistan through a Pressure -State -Response Framework. In: SDPI (eds.) 2003. Sustainable Development and Southern Realities- Past and Future in South Asia. Sustainable Development Policy Institute, City Press, Islamabad, Pakistan, S.47-72.

Case studies on Joint Forest Management

An intensive "Forest Reform Process" is going on in the KP which includes an emphasis on community participation in forest management. The reforms seek to initiate a process of eliminating fundamental causes of the depletion of forests through participation of stakeholders. In addition, the recent devolution of power from central to local level is part of a global trend to reduce the role of central government in order to increase efficiency and to promote democracy and empowerment of the poor. In this context, a new system of local government was implemented in 2001. It brought institutional changes within and outside the forest sector. In the PhD research by Mr. Babar Shahbaz, and the MSc research by Mr. Muhammad Awais, villages that were exposed to such interventions (especially regarding Joint Forest Management) are compared with non-intervention villages. Key publications are:

Shahbaz B, Ali T. 2005. Participatory Forest Management: Analysis of Forest Use Patterns, Livelihood Strategies and Extent of Participation of Forest Users in Mansehra and Swat Districts of Pakistan. In: SDPI (eds.). Troubled Times: Sustainable Development and Governance in the Age of Extremes. Sustainable Development Policy Institute, City Press, Islamabad.

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Ali T, Shahbaz B, Suleri A. 2006. Analysis of Myths and Realities of Deforestation in Northwest Pakistan: Implications for Forestry Extension. International Journal of Agriculture and Biology.

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Shahbaz B, Ali T, Suleri A.Q. 2006. A Critical Analysis of Forest Policies of Pakistan: Implications for Sustainable Livelihoods. Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change, Springer Science+Business Media B.V., Netherlands.

The role of forests in local people's livelihoods

The rural population in the KP is often blamed for an over-exploitation of forest resources, which would lead to a destruction of the resource base. In this context it is often forgotten that rural people are highly dependent on forest resources such as fuelwood and construction timber, and that alternatives are hardly existing. In order to clarify the question to what extent local people are depedent upon forest resources for subsistence well as for cash income generation, data has been collected during the Sustainable Livelihoods Survey 2004. Results show that access to various assets widely differs between the high- and lowland context. Forest resources, i.e. fuelwood, are of utmost importance for subsistence-oriented strategies especially in the highland areas, where affordable alternatives are missing. The role of forests in income-oriented strategies, however, is negligible both in the high- and lowland context. Key publications are:

Steimann B. (2006). Rural livelihoods in a highland-lowland context and the role of forest resources (NWFP, Pakistan). In: SDPI (eds.). Troubled Times: Sustainable Development and Governance in the Age of Extremes. Sustainable Development Policy Institute, City Press, Islamabad. 427 KB

Case study on decentralization and participation in the forestry sector of NWFP - the role of the state

Core issues of the reform process of the KP Forest Department (FD) were a re-structuring and decentralization of the department's hierarchy as well as the introduction of participatory approaches on local level. In 2003, the major part of the reform has been designed and discussed in detail, and policies, acts and ordinances as well as job descriptions for the staff have been adjusted to the new requirements. However, it was unclear to what extent necessary steps have been implemented on local and regional level.

For his MSc thesis, Mr. Bernd Steimann asked the following research questions: What role does the territorial staff of the FD play in the management of natural resources? How does this staff perceive the ongoing reforms on different hierarchical levels? How does the local population perceive the role of the staff? How does the FD interact with the local government? Key publications are:

Geiser U, Steimann B. 2005. State actors' livelihoods and acts of translation, or: Why forest sector reforms in North-West Pakistan do not find their way to the forests. In: Contemporary South Asia. 2005. Vol.13 (4).

Steimann B. 2004. Decentralization & Participation in the Forestry Sector of NWFP, Pakistan – The Role of The State. NCCR IP6 Working Paper No. 7. 696 KB

The impact of forest-related international norms in Pakistan

The MSc study of Mr. Andreas Rothen is about the influence of international norms on forest policy-making in Pakistan. The study describes and assesses the international forest regime, and explores its impact in Pakistan. With the research insights at hand, potentially effective ways to increase the impact of international norms in Pakistan are formulated. Key publications are:

Rothen A. 2006. The Impact of Forest-related international Norms in Pakistan. In: SDPI (eds.). Troubled Times: Sustainable Development and Governance in the Age of Extremes. Sustainable Development Policy Institute, City Press, Islamabad

Timber trade

An important missing link in the understanding of the pressures on forests is timber trade. Demands upon forests do not only arise at local level, but emerge from distant places as well, and are mediated through the mechanisms of timber trade. In his M.Phil thesis, Mushtaq Ahmad Jan focuses on the socio-economic analysis of timber trade in KP, with special reference to stakeholders analysis in Malakand Region.

Please secure copyright permission for reproduction of all publications from the author(s). The Pakistan Research Group cannot be held responsible for breaching of copyright laws protecting these publications.


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